Welcome to Weekly Rapts.
Every week I come across some exceptional articles, books, videos, tweets and other stuff that captures my attention and inspires me to action which could be to write about a blog post; have a conversation about it with someone; create something from it; escape down a rabbit warren to learn more about it.
These have enraptured (‘rapt’) my imagination and attention for the week so I’m going to share them here as (‘wrapped’) gifts to you too.
Get it? Got it? No? okay, just read on.
“I Want My Mind to Meander”
This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to catch up with Euan Semple (@Euan) over a cup of coffee late Friday afternoon. I love catching up with people across my network and as I read his blog about how we relate with technology in our every day lives, there was a niggling thought at the back of my mind about the question of what I’ve done by deleting social media off my phone. After all, I know that there are others where this doesn’t make sense simply because our phones are our connections to information. Thing is, I know myself. I’m not disciplined enough to NOT check my social media feeds once my phone is in my hand – and for some moments, my attention gets diverted to this technology in my hands. I figured that he was going to ask me about this and that I should have an answer. He did ask.
The first sentence out of my mouth was “I just want my mind to meander”. Afterwards, I felt like I went on a convoluted message of the whys and wherefores of having my attention distracted and admittedly I was droning on a bit about this. Reflecting on that part of the conversation afterwards, I kept thinking how it’s really all about me wanting to claim back some time for my mind to wander a bit – of it’s own accord. To make silly little imaginary scenarios in my head with what I observe around me and to take in my environment with a renewed sense of wonder.
“I just want my mind to meander” kept popping up through the weekend. It’s the real reason I wanted to get social media off my phone so I decided to read up and see what benefits am I providing to myself by letting my mind wander.
Here’s what I’ve been reading this week to make my mind wander….
Thinking creatively, and engaging with works of art, have both been correlated with DMN (Default Mode Network – or self-referential thinking) activity—especially when people report that the aesthetic experience was particularly strong and meaningful to them. In these moments, our encounter with art seems to trigger an autobiographical daydreaming, a flow experience with a ‘me factor.’
The Real Reason Fans Hated Game of Thrones Last Season – It’s not just bad storytelling—it’s because the storytelling style changed from sociological to psychological
We also have a bias for the individual as the locus of agency in interpreting our own everyday life and the behavior of others. We tend to seek internal, psychological explanations for the behavior of those around us while making situational excuses for our own. This is such a common way of looking at the world that social psychologists have a word for it: the fundamental attribution error.
When someone wrongs us, we tend to think they are evil, misguided or selfish: a personalized explanation. But when we misbehave, we are better at recognizing the external pressures on us that shape our actions: a situational understanding.
Well-run societies don’t need heroes, and the way to keep terrible impulses in check isn’t to dethrone antiheros and replace them with good people. Unfortunately, most of our storytelling—in fiction and also in mass media nonfiction—remains stuck in the hero/antihero narrative.
What’s not to love about this address? I’m at a point in my life that I’m questioning everything that I do, make and share and realise how pathetically little I know but at the same time, also in awe of a lot of things that I have some insane desire to just take it all in, question and learn.
If I’m an entrepreneurial learner, how can I be a teacher to others as well? What gives me the right to stand up on a stage and share what I think? Why is my thinking any more important than anyone else’s? What do I teach others when I myself, am in a constant state of flux wanting to just take everything in and be around people who feel the same?
These real world learning experiences have helped set the stage for you to become a true entrepreneurial learner, one who has evolved a disposition that:
- Is always questing, connecting, probing.
- Is deeply curious and listening to others.
- Is always learning with and from others.
- Is reading context as much as reading content.
- Is continuously learning from interacting with the world, almost as if in conversation with the world
- And finally, is willing to reflect on performance, alone and with the help of others – that is, becoming a reflective practitioner.
I went on a Microsoft summit this week (read about my reflections in the post Some Thoughts on the Microsoft Summit and Learning and Development) where teamwork and collaboration were big themes (get ready for this – you’ll hear a lot from them about this) so I saw this post in the Harvard Business Review.
High-functioning teams are essential to a high-functioning organization because they create more opportunities for each person to use his or her strengths by enabling the tasks at hand to be divided according to the strengths on offer. Teams make weirdness useful. They are a mechanism for integrating the needs of the individual and the needs of the organization. If we can get them right, we solve a lot of problems. Ultimately, then, to help our people become fully engaged, we need to help our team leaders see that they are our weirdness orchestrators, our quirk capturers — that theirs is the most important job in our companies, and that only they can do it.
Finally, my weirdness can be considered useful to an organisation.
Future Learning by Trish Uhl, Presentation at Learning Technologies UK 2019
What I liked about this presentation were the examples given by Trish on the companies who are using AI for learning. She also presented three different methodologies to get into understanding AI which were “Do It Yourself”, “Do It For You” and “Do It For Yourself”. You can do all this currently using tools that are available on the internet today so there’s nothing stopping us from using data to then to ‘personalise, accelerate and optimise’ (her words) performance. I see this every time I get reports back from Microsoft tracking on what applications I’ve used in the week; who I’ve connected with most in the week; how much screentime I’ve had.
While one part of me gets excited by this, I’d be lying if I said that there’s some dark, dim side where I’m scared where all this is going – will we have free will to ‘switch off/disconnect/hide’ ever again?
Actually, have we ever had free will? *shoulder shrug*
Part of me wants to still keep creating boundaries and leave some elements of my life where I feel that I can have some tiny modicum of free thinking or headspace to control my own thoughts and actions. To decide what I want to do at a whim – and not what some machine thinks would be the most efficient way based on how I’ve done actions in the past.
Sometimes, I just want the failure, the angst, the emotions, the feelings, the ups and the downs, the choices.
Once again, I have written in the past(“Slow Reading”) the need to start focusing my attention a bit more and going back to reading classics and fiction in an effort to get my mind to focus and to build some kind of “thinking for myself”. Here’s an article I found that puts research behind what I was feeling.
Literature certainly reflects the preoccupations of its time, but there is evidence that it may also reshape the minds of readers in unexpected ways. Stories that vault readers outside of their own lives and into characters’ inner experiences may sharpen readers’ general abilities to imagine the minds of others. If that’s the case, the historical shift in literature from just-the-facts narration to the tracing of mental peregrinations may have had an unintended side effect: helping to train precisely the skills that people needed to function in societies that were becoming more socially complex and ambiguous.
Heavy readers of fiction showed the highest level of brain activity.
The results showed that those who had read the literary fiction text had higher scores than the others, suggesting that certain kinds of reading can stimulate mental processes that are relevant to identifying the emotions of others.
Overall, there is mounting evidence for literature’s potential to reshape the mind. But we still know little about which qualities of a text, or which literary techniques, best arouse the mentalizing network.
People with Greater Intellectual Humility Have Superior General Knowledge
Okay, I don’t know about this. I’ve read heaps in my time and in actual fact, wish I was far more intellectual than I am. I’m in awe of people who can easily articulate their thoughts in language that evokes some kind of reaction in listeners. This post outlines that ‘intellectual humility’ may be something that we need to consider because “learning requires the humility to realise one has something to learn.”
Meanwhile, other thinking styles and constructs that correlated with greater intellectual humility included being more inclined to reflective thinking, having more “need for cognition” (enjoying thinking hard and problem solving), greater curiosity, and open-minded thinking. More intellectual humility was also associated with less “social vigilantism”, defined as seeing other people’s beliefs as inferior.
…we don’t yet know if greater general knowledge and open-mindedness fosters intellectual humility, or if intellectual humility comes first, and promotes knowledge and curiosity.
So that’s it for my reading and thinking this last week. What has made you think?